Think of three books. Odds are, at least one of them is part of a series. Book series give readers more of what they love, while letting writers continue to develop the characters and world they know and love (and potentially make some more money off an already-established book). Today’s post talks about different types of series, and what to consider when writing each one.
Types of Series
To be a series, a group of books need to be related in some way. How deeply related the individual books are determines what kind of series it is.
Dynamic Series. This is a series that follows one set of characters solving one major problem over the course of several books. Few people want to read 3,000 pages about the same problem at once, but the same thing seems a lot more appealing in installments. Importantly, the characters in these series tend to grow and change from one book to the next. The events of one book have severe consequences on the events of the next. It’s all connected.
Static Series. A static series does usually follow a single set of characters, but each book focuses on one problem that gets solved by the end of the book. The characters are less likely to change in personality or ambitions throughout the series—they might learn small lessons in each book, but there won’t be any changes in one book that have major implications in another. Every book in this type of series can usually be read individually without needing the information from the previous books, although the first book will have the most detailed introduction of the world and the characters.
Anthology Series have books that are more like spin-offs of each other, with few—if any—overlapping characters. Perhaps a common setting or theme ties them together. You definitely don’t need previous books to understand any book in the series, although if you’re a planner, it can be fun to throw in easter eggs and hints in earlier books if you know what you want to include in the latter books.
Lengths of Series
Duology or Trilogy: A two-part or three-part series. These are especially common in young adult and adult series because these readers have changing interests and are more likely to get bored of the same cast of characters over an extended period of time. Because of how condense such a series is, it is likely to be a dynamic series. Duologies and trilogies tend to be written in a way that makes it easy to put all the books together and call it one big book. Of course, few people would want to read such a long book at once, so authors split it up into two or three books. These books typically end with cliff-hangers and overhanging questions.
Five or Seven Books: These are especially common in middle grade series and more likely to be static series. Think Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and the Olympians. They are less likely to have major cliff-hangers, though each book is bound to leave your readers with questions.
A Never-Ending Series: Early chapter book readers often fall in love with one character or theme, and just want to stick to it. That’s why series like The Magic Tree House and Rainbow Fairies have more books than some adults have read in their lives. These can be static or anthology series.
Basically, the longer a series, the more important it is that each book has its own prominent plot. This prevents readers from getting bored from one problem that has been drawn out unnecessarily.
Alternatives to Series
If you don’t have a viable story for a series but you don’t want to give up completely on your characters or world, don’t worry. Instead of writing a series of sequels, you could write:
Spin-offs. A book set on the other side of the same world. A book based on a minor character in your original book. A spin-off takes advantage of something you have already created or set up in your original book and lets you develop it further, without forcing you to keep all elements from the original book.
Prequels. Some questions can only be answered with a journey to the past. Your readers could be just as invested in what happened before your story as they are in what happens after. How did the world of your characters come to be?
Writing a series requires dedication and planning. You need to look at not only your own goals but your target audience’s attention spans and interests when deciding what type of series to write.
Have you ever written or do you plan on writing a book series? Let me know in the comments!